Comment: Transportation plan puts a focus on equity for all

The House Democrats’ plan will help direct contracts to women- and minority-owned companies.

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2021 2:16pm
  • Opinion

By Bill Ramos and Javier Valdez

How can we build a transportation system that works for all our communities?

It’s a given that investing in transportation means building highways and ferries. And, clearly, we need to modernize and transform how we move people and goods to use cleaner technology, such as electric vehicles.

But we also had another goal in mind over the last year as my colleagues and I developed a proposal to invest in transportation: equity.

House Democrats on the Transportation Committee are answering the critical need for transportation improvements with a plan that includes new investments in roads, transit, special needs transportation, bike and pedestrian improvements, and significant investments to reduce carbon output.

We also include long-neglected preservation and maintenance of existing infrastructure. The state Department of Transportation estimates each Washington driver incurs nearly $650 in annual car repair costs from potholes, cracks, and other poor road conditions; that’s nearly $3.7 billion for all drivers in the state.

Over the course of nearly 90 listening sessions, with communities that had never previously been involved, or whose voices historically were not prioritized in developing transportation policy, key messages emerged that the public told us we need to prioritize.

The first was opportunities to participate in the business side of transportation infrastructure to bring jobs and economic prosperity to underserved communities that have been overshadowed in state contracting. The second was the effect on the same communities from past transportation projects. Some have certainly been detrimental to certain communities, even if a project may have been good overall for the state. The third was creating more opportunities for family wage jobs and apprenticeships.

We didn’t want to just introduce a funding package and hope we got it right, we wanted to invite tough conversations that could lead to inclusive, equitable transportation outcomes. We wanted people involved early, we wanted to listen to their challenges, their needs, and how an improved transportation system could help realize hopes and dreams for a stronger community.

I am confident that the transportation package we have introduced reflects the messages we heard.

We recognize that the sheer size of the revenues raised will affect communities of color and other disadvantaged communities. Because of that, we prioritized mitigating impacts.

Our proposal will help women- and minority-owned businesses get certified to qualify and compete for transportation projects. It requires the state to conduct enhanced outreach outside of the Puget Sound region to bring more and new women- and minority-owned businesses into the system and get certified. And it provides the technical assistance these firms need to be successful. We also made sure to value members from disadvantaged communities by ensuring a place on state boards that help determine projects and policies.

This transportation package strengthens contractor mentorship programs to engage well established contractors with those who haven’t had the same opportunities. It expands apprenticeship programs like “Youth Direct” to connect kids, including foster youths, involved in the criminal justice system with job opportunities so they can learn, earn a paycheck, and contribute to their communities, all at the same time.

We’re also investing in frontline communities by targeting transportation projects to benefit them with a strong focus on communities that have had past injustices to make sure they really benefit from this investment.

The proposal is unique in that it raises new revenue without new borrowing through bonds, saving billions of taxpayer dollars in interest costs. Another connection between revenue and investments is how indexing the fuel tax to the Consumer Price Index will pay for the increased costs of preservation and maintenance. These measures were important to minimize the impact of regressive financing.

Now is the time to pass this proposal and finally bring an equity lens to transportation policy and planning; a matter so critical to our quality of life for all.

State Rep. Bill Ramos, D-Issaquah, represents the 5th Legislative District. He serves as second vice chair for the House Transportation Committee. Rep. Javier Valdez, D-Seattle, represents the 46th Legislative District and serves on the House Transportation Committee.


In consideration of how we voice our opinions in the modern world, we’ve closed comments on our websites. We value the opinions of our readers and we encourage you to keep the conversation going.

Please feel free to share your story tips by emailing editor@issaquahreporter.com.

To share your opinion for publication, submit a letter through our website https://www.issaquahreporter.com/submit-letter/. Include your name, address and daytime phone number. (We’ll only publish your name and hometown.) We reserve the right to edit letters, but if you keep yours to 300 words or less, we won’t ask you to shorten it.

More in Opinion

Jayendrina Singha Ray is a PhD (ABD) in English, with a research focus on the works of the South African Nobel Laureate John Maxwell Coetzee. She teaches English Composition and Research Writing at Highline College, WA, and has previously taught English at colleges in India.
Asian women and racial violence in the aftermath of Atlanta | Guest column

In her famous essay “The Laugh of the Medusa,” Hélène Cixous resurrects… Continue reading

Guest column: Issaquah leaders support a clean fuel standard

By Victoria Hunt, Issaquah City Council president, and Issaquah Mayor Mary Lou… Continue reading

Comment: Transportation plan puts a focus on equity for all

The House Democrats’ plan will help direct contracts to women- and minority-owned companies.

Stock photo
The right to vote helps rehumanize incarcerated people | Guest column

By Kim Bogucki, For The Reporter In 2008, I began asking incarcerated… Continue reading

Courtesy image
Thoughts on police reform and public trust | Guest column

By Steven D. Strachan, Washington Association of Sheriffs and Police Chiefs The… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
A legislative session like no other we’ve seen | Roegner

In even numbered years such as 2020, the legislative session is only… Continue reading

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Time to predict November’s election winners | Roegner

A look at statewide offices in Washington.

Cartoon by Frank Shiers
Editorial: Let’s clear the air on wildfires, climate change

Agreement and commitment is needed to address the causes of wildfires and climate change.

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
Republican’s write-in campaign highlights post-primary intrigue | Roegner

Can former Bothell mayor beat two Democrats for lieutenant governor post?

Federal Way resident Bob Roegner is a former mayor of Auburn. Contact bjroegner@comcast.net.
What does it mean to violate the Hatch Act? | Roegner

The federal law was established in 1939.

Washington State Capitol Building in Olympia. File photo
Editorial: State lawmakers shouldn’t wait to start budget work

Making tough choices on cuts and revenue can’t wait until next year and hopes for better news.

Rico Thomas, left, has been a clerk in the Fuel Center/Mini Mart at Safeway in Federal Way for the past 5 years. Kyong Barry, right, has been with Albertsons for 18 years and is a front end supervisor in Auburn. Both are active members of UFCW 21. Courtesy photos
Grocery store workers deserve respect and hazard pay | Guest column

As grocery store workers in King County, we experience the hard, cold… Continue reading